This week’s Five for Friday is with David Goethals, VP of Presales Operations at Workday. Dave is one of my mentors, and one of the best people managers I know. Dave has that rare gift of being a natural leader – where he goes, people just want to follow. We asked Dave to give us some insight into how he finds and hires the right people and how he sees enterprise software being transformed.
Dave Goethals, VP at Workday
JM: You've spent a lot of time in enterprise software and are highly regarded as one of the best when it comes to building and managing teams. Tell us about your background.
DG: I started in Enterprise software in 1987 with a mainframe software company in support & training with a little programming thrown in on the side. Within a few years, I was managing the hotline support team. In 1993, I started with PeopleSoft in Presales. It was my first Presales job, and I was one of the first 5 Financials Presales people. I got out of management and into Presales because I wanted to make the switch, and knew I needed to be a Presales person before I could manage a Presales team. I had an opportunity with PeopleSoft to move to Europe and take a global Presales role. I spent a couple of years there, then came back and managed a national team. In my new role role, I stepped out of the transactional world and into EPM. I didn’t think I would ever go back to ERP. I took on other Presales teams until the Oracle acquisition. Shortly after, I went to OutlookSoft, then SAP by acquisition, where I managed a variety of presales teams aligned to different parts of the SAP North American sales organization. I joined Workday in January 2010 to run the Presales organization, eating my words that I’d never work in ERP again! I wanted to go back because Workday took advantage of the opportunity to start from scratch. We were not influenced by design constraints and built an application that re-invents ERP and makes it fun again. Workday blends the tactical and strategic, defying the pretenses of what ERP can do. I wanted to be part of something destined to be the next big thing in our industry.
JM: What is your secret for hiring the right people for a team?
DG: I love this question. It’s really simple. What I’ve learned is cultural fit is the #1 criteria. I was fortunate to come from PeopleSoft, which had a strong culture. I wasn’t really part of building that culture, but I realized how special it was after being with other companies that didn’t have it. I tell people that we interview at Workday that we put cultural fit above everything else – including past success, expertise, presentation capability, etc. Everyone involved in the hiring process has to be in sync with what qualities make up the right fit for the company’s culture, and your needs may be different based on where the company is in its lifecycle…in the startup phase, it’s a different person that you need than in a more mature setting. Every person in the company is critical to success. We look for fit around desire, passion, drive, work ethic and ability to be a team player. The key is not to settle. We put people in front of many people that don’t know them – get them out of their network – and have them demonstrate that they “get” what we do. In the end, we never settle. If you ever feel like you’re settling, you’re probably making the wrong decision.
JM: How have you seen the expectations of users shift in the last few years? What do they want to get from solutions they've been unable to get in the past?
DG: The expectations are different now. They are more in line with the experience people get on the Internet. You can’t have menu structures and click paths that lead to dead ends and frustration. Applications should reward curiosity with clicks…you shouldn’t be penalized for your curiosity by arriving at a dead end. People want analysis at the speed of thought. If I want to search on LinkedIn or Amazon, I type in the search box, and things happen right in front of me. People are expecting that. Structure-less navigation is key. Applications of the past are still too structured. You should be able to move around without being cornered. This expectation is forcing vendors to re-think the user experience of applications they build.
JM: What synergies do you see between Workday and Tidemark? How does a joint approach benefit a customer?
DG: Huge synergies. Workday is focused on core ERP: HCM, Payroll, and Financials. As far as Budgets/Budgeting – we will focus on the noun and let Tidemark focus on the verb. We look for budgeting (the process) to be done with Tidemark, and once finalized, the budget gets pushed back to Workday. Budgeting requires a different design construct than what we need for core ERP. Bi-directional integration with Tidemark (on our roadmap) is the key to drive value to our customers. Seamless integration between the budget process and results being visible in Workday.
JM: How do you find (or make) time to have fun outside of work and what's on the agenda for vacation this summer?
DG: I am committed to time off the job. I’m a big proponent of people taking vacation, and I lead by example in that regard. People are amazed that when I say I’m going on vacation and won’t be checking in - I really don’t check in. The key is to get disconnected. To do this, you have to put faith in the people that are your backups. In your out of office, whoever you list as your backup, you have to trust they’re going to take care of whatever comes up. If you don’t, you’ve got the wrong people. My family typically goes to national parks or other places where cell phones don’t work or will break because they got dropped in the lake while trying to pull in a fish. We go places where the kids can’t recharge their electronics, so they don’t bring them. We like to vacation with the basics – where we can disconnect from external influences and reconnect as a family. This summer, we’re going camping in northern Minnesota and doing a lot fishing.